According to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, the UK can expect to see 100,000 COVID infections daily – doubling his earlier statement that the population could expect atleast 50,000 a day
The UK Government yesterday (6 July) announced their plans to lift all COVID restrictions across the country, as of 19 July.
This means that venues will be fully open to capacity, mandatory masks on public transport are removed and social distancing is no longer a legal requirement in public places. The UK is currently experiencing a spike in infection rates, attributed to the transmissibility of the Delta variant, originating in India.
Health secretary Sajid Javid, speaking in an interview, said: “As we ease and go into the summer, we expect them to rise. They could go as high as 100,000. We want to be very straightforward about this in what we can expect in terms of case numbers. But what matters more than anything is hospitalisation and death numbers.”
At the peak of infection levels, the UK was seeing around 80,000 new cases daily. The world record in highest level of daily infections is still held by India at 300,000, where a lack of decisive leadership by Prime Minister Modi left citizens in a state of intense devastation.
What do the health experts think?
Editor of the Health Service Journal (HSJ), Alastair McLellan responded:
BREAKING: The number of Covid+ patients in England is now growing at 38% per week. That is the fastest rate of increase since last October! I think we’re in real trouble
— Alastair McLellan (@HSJEditor) July 6, 2021
SAGE, the UK science advisory group, released a report that strongly advised against the re-opening plan. In their paper, they wrote: “Not everyone will have been vaccinated, vaccines are not 100% effective, and the virus will continue to circulate.”
Infection rise to hit vulnerable hardest
They specifically highlighted that socio-economically deprived and ethnic minority groups will be hit hardest by any rise in infection rates. SAGE further explain that healthcare inequity will be increased by the expected fourth wave, which they predict will come even with “baseline” measures – masking, distancing and venue limitations.
Long COVID concerns have been raised by medical bodies like the British Medical Association (BMA). In a statement condemning the relaxation, they said: “Additionally, approximately one in ten people who contract the virus will have symptoms of long covid and with an estimated 2 million people having been ill for more than 12 weeks.”
Is the NHS ready?
According to the BMA, more infections will lead to NHS capacity being overwhelmed. The NHS was severely overwhelmed last winter, leading to ongoing issues of mental health in the working body. Some individuals are experiencing severe burnout and unable to keep up their work, as documented by a Health Committee Report in June.
They further said: The NHS is already under immense pressure trying to cope with an unprecedented backlog of care. While admittedly the link between hospitalisations and deaths has weakened, it has not been broken and we now have twice as many people in hospital and on ventilators compared to a month ago.
“Even modest rises in patients being admitted to hospital will undermine our ability to treat the record 5 million patients waiting for treatment.”
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